1. Langford, Cynthia A. PhD, APRN, FNP-BC (Associate Professor)

Article Content

The title of a scholarly article represents the reader's first point of encounter with any article. A well-written title can draw readers into the work and a poorly written title can result in important work being overlooked. In both print and electronic media, the reader uses the title to decide if the information is relevant to the information seeking quest. Thus, the title is the single most important line of a publication because the title determines whether a reader continues to engage with the work (Alexandrov & Hennerici, 2007; Dewan & Gupta, 2016; Gennaro, 2016; Oermann, 2016; Pearce & Ferguson, 2017; Peh & Ng, 2008; Pierson, 2016).


Disseminating scholarly work requires that the work reaches the intended audience. A well-crafted title should draw the reader into wanting more information, simply by strategically choosing and placing words that convey succinctly the substance of the work. Because the predominant manner for locating published literature is electronic searching, authors must attend to the nuances of electronic searches. These searches depend on clear titles that describe the work. Those reviewing these machine generated search results have no time or patience with an uninformative title. Worse, a title that promises once thing without delivering on the promise is quickly dismissed as click bait, a title designed to draw in the reader but failing to provide substance, or accuracy when activated. The goal of scholarly dissemination requires drawing searchers to a published report with a well-crafted title, pulling the reader to title, then into the abstract, and then into the full article, increasing the probability of the work being read, integrated into future work, and thus joined into the building of science.


Despite the growing body of publications on the topic, there is a lack of consensus on how to best craft a title. The pattern of these records indicates an increase in publications on the topic and an expansion of disciplinary focus from nursing and medicine for the earliest publications to include an increasing number of other health science disciplines. The importance of title is a common thread for these publications-because title is what creates interest and heightens discoverability of published work. Moreover, title is foundational to electronic search algorithms in electronic repositories, such as PubMed, CINAHL, and Google Scholar. In most electronic searches, title and abstract become the first and sometimes only parts of a published work that a reader sees or even uses (Dewan & Gupta, 2016; Pearce & Berg, 2015; Pearce & Ferguson, 2017).


Commonly, the working title of a manuscript is developed as an initial step in writing, undergoing many revisions before final submission. During the writing process, authors consider clarity and assure holding true to the nature of the work. Terms may be added to accurately reflect important processes (e.g., specification of research designs and paradigms) or to clarify population characteristics. Several sources provide guidance for title length based on research specifically focused on the title length (Antoniou, Antoniou, Georgakarakos, Sfyroeras, & Georgiadis, 2015; Habibzadeh & Yadollahie, 2010; Jacques & Sebire, 2010; Letchford, Moat, & Preis, 2015; Lewison & Hartley, 2005) or in general guidelines for published research (American Psychological Association, 2010; Polit & Beck, 2017). Research is equivocal on the topic of title length, punctuation such as question mark, dash, and colon use, and whether subtitles are leveraged effectively to provide subsequent citation of the work. However, for lengthy titles, authors are advised to choose most judiciously, adding words only to refine clarity. Authors submitted to JAANP are provided wide scope in developing article title, with a guide that stipulates no more than 25 words in length, with enticing and unambiguous wording (Journal of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, 2018). Therefore, the responsibility of the author is to construct a title that is succinct, clear, and easily understood, as well as reflecting the substance of the work presented, and consistent with author guidelines for the respective journal (Alexandrov & Hennerici, 2007; Dewan & Gupta, 2016; Gennaro, 2016; Oermann, 2016; Pearce & Berg, 2015; Pearce & Ferguson, 2017; Peh & Ng, 2008).


Crafting a title is often the first step in the writing process and should be the last step as well, assuring the well-designed title accurately, artfully, and scientifically represents the work presented (Alexandrov & Hennerici, 2007; Gennaro, 2016; Letchford et al., 2015; Oermann, 2016; Pearce & Ferguson, 2017). Finalizing the title requires leveraging those terms most salient, attending at this point to the instructions for authors from the journal and help from editors if needed.


Systematic steps support the creativity and processes for establishing a title.


1. Keep a working list all relevant terms, including those representing independent and dependent variables, population or sample, and methods or process.


2. Construct an initial, tentative title, using all the variables in the list, ignoring length, or number of words.


3. Produce the manuscript.


4. Cycle back to the title during manuscript writing, making intermittent editorial changes, or adding items to the list as creative bursts occur.


5. Consider checking the key terms for the title using MeSH listings in PubMed and editing the title for the terms most relevant. Solidify terms regardless of MeSH status, but if a term is in MeSH, seriously consider retaining because this can support others locating in electronic searches (Pearce, Hicks, & Pierson, 2018).


6. Refine the title as a last step in the writing process. Review again the journal instructions and assure all parameters for title have been met before submission.



Title construction must be approached enthusiastically and creatively, considering both the work presented and the potential reader searching for related literature. Leveraging the most appropriate terms to represent the work being published is critical to the work being found. Heightening discoverability heightens the probability that the work will be integrated into developing science and cited by others. Every journal requires a title. Authors carry the responsibility and accountability for their title, thus the capacity for creating the most refined and informative title possible to reflect the work and to draw readers to their endeavor.


Most authors construct a working title or even several working titles when beginning a manuscript. The working title might remain unchanged throughout the writing process but should be reevaluated and revised before final submission. Balancing the perfect mix of relevant terms, title length, and overall structure requires strategy, creativity, and diligence. Authors have responsibility, authority, credibility, and capacity to tailor a well-designed title and with investment in the process will reap the benefits of their work disseminating more widely.




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